Rapture (Fallen #4)


by Lauren Kate

PROLOGUE

FALLING

First there was silence—

In the space between Heaven and the Fall, deep in the unknowable distance, there was a moment when the glorious hum of Heaven disappeared and was replaced by a silence so profound that Daniel’s soul strained to make out any noise.

Then came the feeling of falling—a drop even his wings couldn’t prevent, as if the Throne had attached moons to them. They hardly beat, and when they did, it made no impact on his fall.

Where was he going? There was nothing before him and nothing behind. Nothing up and nothing down.

Only thick darkness, and the blurry outline of what was left of Daniel’s soul.

In the absence of sound, his imagination took over. It filled his head with something beyond sound, something inescapable: the haunting words of Lucinda’s curse.

She will die . . . She will never pass out of adolescence—will die again and again and again at precisely the moment when she remembers your choice.

You will never truly be together.

It was Lucifer’s foul imprecation, his embittered ad-dendum to the Throne’s sentence passed in the Heavenly Meadow. Now death was coming for his love. Could Daniel stop it? Would he even recognize it?

For what did an angel know of death? Daniel had witnessed it come peacefully to some of the new mortal breed called human, but death did not concern angels.

Death and adolescence: the two absolutes in Lucifer’s Curse. Neither meant a thing to Daniel. All he knew was that being separated from Lucinda was not a punishment he could endure. They had to be together.

“Lucinda!” he shouted.

His soul should have warmed at the very thought of her, but there was only aching absence, an abundance of what was not.

He should have been able to sense his brethren around him—all those who’d chosen wrongly or too late; who’d made no choice at all and been cast out for their indecision. He knew that he wasn’t truly alone; so many of them had plummeted when the cloudsoil beneath them opened up onto the void.

But he could neither see nor sense anyone else.

Before this moment, he had never been alone. Now he felt like the last angel in all the worlds.

Don’t think like that. You’ll lose yourself.

He tried to hold on . . . Lucinda, the Roll Call, Lucinda, the choice . . . but as he fell, it grew harder to remember. What, for instance, were the last words he’d heard spoken by the Throne—

The Gates of Heaven . . .

The Gates of Heaven are . . .

He could not remember what came next, could only dimly recall how the great light had flickered, and the harshest cold had swept over the Meadow, and the trees in the Orchard had tumbled into one another, causing waves of furious disturbance that were felt throughout the cosmos, tsunamis of cloudsoil that blinded the angels and crushed their glory. There had been something else, something just before the obliteration of the Meadow, something like a—

Twinning.

A bold bright angel had soared up during the Roll Call—said he was Daniel come back from the future.

There was a sadness in his eyes that had looked so . . .

old. Had this angel—this version of Daniel’s soul—

suffered deeply?

Had Lucinda?

A vast rage rose in Daniel. He would find Lucifer, the angel who lived at the dead end of all ideas. Daniel did not fear the traitor who had been the Morning Star.

Wherever, whenever they reached the end of this oblivion, Daniel would take his revenge. But first he would find Lucinda, for without her, nothing mattered. Without her love, nothing was possible.

Theirs was a love that made it inconceivable to choose Lucifer or the Throne. The only side he could ever choose was hers. So now Daniel would pay for that choice, but he did not yet understand the shape his punishment would take. Only that she was gone from the place she belonged: at his side.

The pain of separation from his soul mate coursed through Daniel suddenly, sharp and brutal. He moaned wordlessly, his mind clouded over, and suddenly, fright-eningly, he couldn’t remember why.

He tumbled onward, down through denser black-ness.

He could no longer see or feel or recall how he had ended up here, nowhere, hurtling through nothing-ness—toward where? For how long?

His memory sputtered and faded. It was harder and harder to recall those words spoken by the angel in the white meadow who had looked so much like . . .

Who had the angel resembled? And what had he said that was so important?

Daniel did not know, did not know anything anymore.

Only that he was tumbling through an endless void.

He was filled with an urge to find something . . . someone.

An urge to feel whole again . . .

But there was only darkness inside darkness—

Silence drowning out his thoughts—

A nothing that was everything.

Daniel fell.

ONE

THE BOOK OF WATCHERS

“Good morning.”

A warm hand brushed Luce’s face and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

Rolling onto her side, she yawned and opened her eyes. She had been sleeping deeply, dreaming about Daniel.

“Oh,” she gasped, feeling her cheek. There he was.

Daniel was sitting next to her. He wore a black sweater and the same red scarf that had been knotted around his neck the first time she’d seen him at Sword & Cross. He looked better than a dream.

His weight made the edge of the cot sag a little and Luce drew up her legs to snuggle closer to him.

“You’re not a dream,” she said.

Daniel’s eyes were blearier than she was used to, but they still glowed the brightest violet as they gazed at her face, studying her features as if seeing her anew. He leaned down and pressed his lips to hers.

Luce folded into him, wrapping her arms around the back of his neck, happy to kiss him back. She didn’t care about her unbrushed teeth, about her bed head. She didn’t care about anything other than his kiss. They were together now and neither of them could stop grinning.

Then it all came rushing back:

Razor claws and dull red eyes. Choking stench of death and rot. Darkness everywhere, so complete in its doom it made light and love and everything good in the world feel tired and broken and dead.

That Lucifer had once been something else to her—

Bill, the ornery stone gargoyle she’d mistaken for a friend, was actually Lucifer himself—seemed impossible.

She’d let him get too close, and now, because she had not done as he wished—choosing not to kill her soul in ancient Egypt—he had decided to wipe the slate clean.

To bend time and erase everything since the Fall.

Every life, every love, every moment that every mortal and angelic soul had ever experienced would be balled up and discarded at Lucifer’s reckless whim, like the universe was a board game and he was a whining child giving up when he began to lose. But what he wanted to win, Luce had no idea.

Her skin felt hot as she remembered his wrath. He’d wanted her to see it, to tremble in his hand when he took her back to the time of the Fall. He’d wanted to show her it was personal for him.

Then he’d thrown her aside, casting an Announcer like a net to capture all the angels who’d fallen from Heaven.

Just as Daniel caught her in that starry noplace, Lucifer blinked out of existence and incited the Fall to begin again. He was there now with the falling angels, including the past version of himself. Like the rest of them, Lucifer would fall in powerless isolation—with his brethren but apart, together but alone. Millennia ago, it had taken the angels nine mortal days to fall from Heaven down to Earth. Since Lucifer’s second Fall would follow the same trajectory, Luce, Daniel, and the others had just nine days to stop him.

If they didn’t, once Lucifer and his Announcer full of angels fell to Earth, there would be a hiccup in time that would reverberate backward all the way to the original Fall, and everything would start anew. As though the seven thousand years between then and now had never happened.

As though Luce hadn’t at last begun to understand the curse, to understand where she fit into all this, to learn who she was and what she could be.

The history and the future of the world were in jeopardy—unless Luce, seven angels, and two Nephilim could stop Lucifer. They had nine days and no idea where to start.

Luce had been so tired the night before that she didn’t remember lying down on this cot, drawing this thin blue blanket around her shoulders. There were cobwebs in the rafters of the small cabin, a folding table strewn with half-drunk mugs of hot chocolate that Gabbe had made for everyone the previous night. But it all seemed like a dream to Luce. Her flight down from the Announcer to this tiny island off Tybee, this safe zone for the angels, had been obscured by blinding fatigue.

She’d fallen asleep while the others had still been talking, letting Daniel’s voice lull her into a dream. Now the cabin was quiet, and in the window behind Daniel’s silhouette, the sky was the gray of almost sunrise.

She reached up to touch his cheek. He turned his head and kissed the inside of her palm. Luce squeezed her eyes to stop from crying. Why, after all they’d been through, did Luce and Daniel have to beat the devil before they were free to love?

“Daniel.” Roland’s voice came from the doorway of the cabin. His hands were tucked inside his peacoat pockets, and a gray wool ski cap crowned his dreads. He gave Luce a weary smile. “It’s time.”

“Time for what?” Luce propped herself up on her elbows. “We’re leaving? Already? I wanted to say goodbye to my parents. They’re probably panicked.”

“I thought I’d take you by their house now,” Daniel said, “to say goodbye.”

“But how am I going to explain disappearing after Thanksgiving dinner?”

She remembered Daniel’s words from the night before: Though it felt like they’d been inside the Announcers for an eternity, in real time only a few hours had passed.

Still, to Harry and Doreen Price, a few hours of a missing daughter was eternity.

Daniel and Roland shared a glance. “We took care of it,” Roland said, handing Daniel a set of car keys.

“You took care of it how?” Luce asked. “My dad once called the police when I was a half an hour late from school—”

“Don’t worry, kid,” Roland said. “We’ve got you covered. You just need to make a quick costume change.” He pointed toward a backpack on the rocking chair by the door. “Gabbe brought over your things.”

“Um, thanks,” she said, confused. Where was Gabbe?

Where were the rest of them? The cabin had been packed the night before, positively cozy with the glow of angel wings and the smell of hot chocolate and cinnamon. The memory of that coziness, coupled with the promise of saying goodbye to her parents without knowing where she was going, made this morning feel empty.

The wood floor was rough against her bare feet.

Looking down, she realized she was still wearing the narrow white shift dress she’d had on in Egypt, in the last life she had visited through the Announcers. Bill had made her wear it.

No, not Bill. Lucifer. He’d leered approvingly as she tucked the starshot into her waistband, contemplating the advice he’d given her on how to kill her soul.

Never, never, never. Luce had too much to live for.

Inside the old green backpack she used to take to summer camp, Luce found her favorite pair of pajamas—

the red-and-white-striped flannel set—neatly folded, with the matching white slippers underneath. “But it’s morning,” Luce said. “What do I need pajamas for?” Again Daniel and Roland shared a glance, and this time, they were trying not to laugh.

“Just trust us,” Roland said.

After she was dressed, Luce followed Daniel out of the cabin, letting his broad shoulders buffet the wind as they walked down the pebbly shore to the water.

The tiny island off of Tybee was about a mile from the Savannah coastline. Across that stretch of sea, Roland had promised that a car was waiting.